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A massive explosion at the Saratoga Hotel Havana, Cuba Friday left at least eight dead, the country’s government said.
Search and rescue operations at the luxury property – of which up to 13 have disappeared – remain ongoing as “people may still be trapped,” he added.
“Preliminary investigations indicate that the explosion was caused by a gas leak”, The Cuban government said this in a tweet.
Local health authorities confirmed that eight people died and 30 were injured in the blast.
The images posted on social media showed part of the exterior of the hotel completely destroyed, revealing the interiors of its rooms.
The videos showed smoke rising into the sky as a crowd gathered to watch the destruction.
The 19th-century five-star property has 96 rooms, two bars, two restaurants, and a rooftop pool, according to the Associated Press.
“Investigations continue and everything indicates that the explosion was caused by an accident,” the Cuban government said.
Many of the injured were reportedly taken to a local hospital.
The mayor of Havana also said that children from a school adjacent to the hotel were safely evacuated.
Photographer Michel Figueroa told The Associated Press he was walking past the hotel when “the explosion knocked me down and my head still hurts … Everything went very quickly.”
Yazira de la Caridad, a mother of two, said the blast shook her home one block from the hotel. “The whole building moved. I thought it was an earthquake,” she said. “I still have my heart in my hand.”
Mayiee Pérez said she rushed to the scene after receiving a call from her husband, Daniel Serra, who works in an exchange shop inside the hotel. He said he told her, “I’m fine, I’m fine. They let us out,” but she hasn’t been able to contact him since.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.